The landscape is vast and gently undulating, rugged red rocks dotted with lime green spinifex that looks soft, though in reality is spiky, unpleasant to brush past or worse still, to fall on. As is the experience of an intrepid mountain biker, whose journey on two wheels began in the Karratha hills. Hills that appear out of nowhere from the expanse of flat land surrounding them.
The Karratha hills are mostly short sharp hills when climbing them on a mountain bike. There is one epic hill and this is a story about ‘that’ hill.
The alarm woke her from sleep on a mild winter morning, interrupting her dream of competing in a mountain bike race where things weren’t going well. She turned the alarm off and quickly realised where she was and what day it was. The thought of returning to sleep suddenly seemed like a great idea. It was hill climbing day. ‘That’ hill, 7 repeats, with no rest in between. She lay her head back down on the soft pillow and closed her eyes, fighting the desire to drift back to sleep. Thoughts passed through her mind.
‘Get some more sleep, you need it’
‘You can do the climbs after work, when you’ve had more sleep and feel more rested’
‘You could just go for a ride and not do ‘that’ hill’
‘Get up and don’t ride, finish your ‘to do’ list’
‘Don’t ride today , it will hurt. Rest. Sleep.’
A voice stronger than anything else speaks loudly within, ‘It’ll hurt, but it won’t kill you’.
Motivated by these words, overriding all the other mental chatter, her legs move slowly until her feet connect with the floor. She sits upright her shoulders hunched. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she stands and walks slowly to the door. Thoughts sweep through her mind as she makes herself a cup of green tea and in go slow mode, dressed in her cycling clothes she walks gingerly outside. The cool air is welcoming in what is often a hostile climate, with hot weather night and day for eight months of the year. She is aware of the ‘go slow’ mode she is in but is finding it hard to get excited about what lies ahead.
Eventually, her helmet in place, dressed in riding shorts, cycling jersey and arm warmers she mounts the bike and pedals towards the hills with trepidation. Within five minutes, she is on the dirt trails, still contemplating turning around and going home.
With the two wheels of her bike well connected with the dirt, a broad smile spread across her face and her pace quickens. This is her happy place, surrounded by nature. The moon high in the sky and the sun getting ready to rise for another day.
The shaley rock, so thick in sections it makes it difficult to pedal, crunches under her robust tyres. Thick rubber tyres, needed to survive the sharp, unforgiving rocks that make up most of the trails she rides. She realises that the sooner she gets to ‘that’ hill, the sooner the torture will be over as she quickens her cadence.
A pair of kangaroos appear graciously above the spinifex , silhouetted against the horizon. As she rides towards them, they bound away rapidly. Wishing she was a kangaroo, appearing effortless in motion, she finds herself smiling and keeps on pedalling. As she nears her destination she begins to visualise the climbs. One after the other, until she reaches seven. The view from the top, obstacles along the way, the recovery on the downs, conquering the mental negativity trying to convince her to stop.
A climb up ‘that’ hill takes, four to six minutes on a mountain bike, without stopping. It’s difficult not to stop, mentally and physically. Recent heavy rains, unusual in winter, have eroded the track making the ride challenging as it traverses to its peak. Rocky outcrops need to be navigated and in the steepest sections, keeping both wheels connected with the dirt takes effort.
She reaches the base of the hill, breathes in deeply and begins the first incline. The mental chatter is relentless already.
‘What’s the point?’
‘Why are you doing this?’
‘One climb will do’
‘You are crazy’
‘I think I’ll give this up, it hurts too much and is way too much effort’.
Meanwhile the voice of determination and persistence pipes in.
‘You’re doing so well, just getting here is a bonus’
‘Just focus on getting to the next rock, then choose something else ten metres ahead and get to that’
‘Keep. On. Pedalling’.
Navigating the rutted dirt, shaley rock whilst negating the mental chatter takes her gets closer to the peak. Having climbed ‘that’ hill almost 200 times she knows it well, yet it never seems to get easier. She has just learnt to navigate better and is braver at facing her fears.
There’s a false flat that give some respite before the last pitch to the top. Her breath is laboured when she reaches it, just another short climb to go. She rolls down the short descent, embracing the very last section of the climb. A large smile spreads across her face, for both her achievement and the majestic view.
The sun peers over the horizon welcoming the morning on a stunning winter day in North Western Australia. The sunrise is spectacular and from the hilltop the view is expansive, taking in the vast ocean and vast rolling plains. She glances at it all briefly before turning and beginning the decent after the first climb. Meandering down slowly as she recovers from the effort going up, she begins to mentally prepare for the next climb.
Reaching the bottom within a few minutes, she begins again.
By the fifth climb she is trying to find a way out, a reason to go home and avoid any more pain. Somehow, she finds the energy and the brain power to continue, knowing the feeling of accomplishment once the task is completed.
For each negative thought she works hard to find a positive.
‘This is crazy’ becomes ‘you’ve got this’
‘It’s time to go home’ to ‘You’re half way there’
‘There is no way I’m doing this again’ ‘Yes you can’
Somehow, with a remarkable level of grit and determination, she keeps the wheels turning. One pedal stroke after another and repeat climbs of ‘that’ hill are conquered for another day.
The feeling of exhilaration as she makes the final descent down the winding, eroded trail to the base of College Hill is enough to convince her that this won’t be the last time.
It hurts, but it doesn’t kill you.
The correlation between hill climbing on a mountain bike and surviving and thriving in life is intriguing. Repetition is the key to success. Not often is it done right the very first time. The more you attempt the same thing the more efficient you become at navigating the hurdles along the way.
Finding the right line will get you to the top the most efficient way but to find the right line you will take the inefficient way more than once. You may try the right line but get taken off course, by an incorrect judgment that finds you holding on and using all the energy you have to get back on track.
Life is a rollercoaster ride, the descents can be fast and fun but there’s many bumps along the way.
The effort it takes to navigate the bumps make the journey more exciting. This doesn’t seem so at the time but it’s always worth it in hindsight.
Comparison to others is wasted energy. It’s possible to reach the top without taking the same route as everyone else.
Doing it your way is the key to success in all aspects of life and doing what you once thought was impossible is possible.
Facing fear is doable. It might not be easy but it can be done. The harder we make it in our minds, the harder it will be. What you will find on the other side of fear is magical. Give it a try.
Join Amanda for a Mountain Biking/Hiking Weekend on the 4-6 November 2016 for a ladies weekend in Karratha staying at The Ranges, right on the doorstep of the Karratha hills.